Paul Jacob

Let's not sugarcoat it: If Democrats have their way, the federal government will soon do for energy what it has already done to sugar.

Last week the Senate passed a bill to regulate further our energy markets. The idea started out with the desire to make America more self-sufficient in oil production. But a whole host of subsidies, tax credits, requirements, and what-have-you were thrown in, muddying up any clear purpose. The new law even sports some "price-gouging" measures that are sure to [insert Economics 101 lesson here].

Well, nothing's certain. The House hasn't passed its energy bill yet, and anything could happen, I suppose.

I haven't studied the bill. I'm hoping it dies somewhere between now and a presidential signature, so I don't have to give it a tedious read. For now, I note that it sounds like the usual compromise between idiocy and indecency.

Whoa, you say: Since I haven't studied the bill, how can I in good conscience say such nasty things about it?

Here's how: by analogy and experience. One of Congress's chief aims is to reduce Americans' dependence on foreign oil. Well, Congress has decreased our dependence on foreign sugar. And look what that's got us!

Americans pay far more for sugar than what they would pay lacking the attention of Congress. Cato Institute scholar Chris Edwards reports that the federal government's guaranteed prices, trade restrictions, and production quotas on sugar cost consumers and taxpayers billions. And, "for each sugar-growing and sugar-harvesting job saved by current sugar policies, nearly three confectionary manufacturing jobs are lost."

Do we really want something like this to happen to oil?

And do you hear the Giant Sucking Sound? Yes, jobs go both north and south, because Canada and Mexico have lower sugar prices. Much lower. So "imports of food products that contain sugar are growing rapidly. . . ."

It doesn't end there, of course. America's sugar policies have probably helped spur along the use of sugar substitutes. The main one isn't better for you, though, but far, far worse: high fructose corn syrup. It seems to be in everything these days, including the blobs of fat on America's left, right, front, and rear.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.